Step One: Rejoice

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You can buy this or a similar painting from my friend, Dorothy at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DrippyDot

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us, (Romans 5:3-5, RSV, emphasis mine).

There are a lot of people that I’m praying for: people with grave physical issues, people with grave family issues, people facing all sorts of problems and challenges in their lives—you know who you are, and you know that I’m praying for you.

Often as I’m praying I will open the Bible for guidance in prayer.  This passage in Romans is what came up this morning, and it really blew my mind.  Step one is rejoice in suffering.  I have personally done that and found it to be amazingly effective.  It doesn’t always change the situation, but what it always does is change my perception of the situation, and that makes the whole thing bearable.

Often we think that we have to go running to God with our problems like toddlers running to a busy, distracted mother.  God is never too busy to know exactly what you’re going through.  He knows all about it.  He knew that it was coming (and why).  He knows the pain that it is causing you (whether physical or emotional).  He knows what you need far better than you do, and He knows exactly what to do about it.  In other words: God is always in control of your complete situation if you’re His.

That’s not to say that God allowed your suffering, necessarily.  In the vast majority of cases, our suffering was caused by something we or some other human did.  God doesn’t step in and save us from ourselves.  He doesn’t always save us from the bad choices of others around us.  When God gave us free will, it was irrevocable and inviolable—even while He knew that people (believers and unbelievers alike) would continue to make bad choices.  Sometimes we ignore the Holy Spirit’s warning about trusting someone.  Or we buy convenient or junk foods instead of things that we know to be healthier choices.  Over time these bad choices are going to cause us to suffer.

Suffering is not—absolutely not—a punishment.  Jesus took every bit of the punishment for us to the cross.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1, emphasis mine).

So why do we suffer?  Suffering does have a purpose.  Read that passage again:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us, (Romans 5:3-5, RSV, emphasis mine).

The first step is to rejoice in sufferings, and you’ll see changes in yourself—changes that help you to follow God’s leading better, to make better choices in life.  And in all of this, God wants to build you and grow you and make you truly fit for Heaven.  In the end, it’s all going to be worth it.  So start rejoicing now.  God is good!

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